Fighting infection post-surgery with an antibiotic gel; developing a meniscus implant for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) patients; treating an overactive bladder through foot stimulation, and attacking skin cancer with a microneedle bandage were the latest innovative medical technologies selected for funding through the Wallace H Coulter Translational Research Partners II (TPII) Program (Coulter Program) this July at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Coulter Program, a campus-wide effort led by Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, identifies, selects, funds and mentors translational research by clinician-bioengineer teams that address unmet clinical needs through innovative technologies. The University was awarded a $3.54 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation in fall 2011 (one of only six awards nationwide), supplemented by $1.665 million in matching funds from the University’s School of Medicine, Swanson School of Engineering, and Office of Technology Management.
This is the Coulter Program’s second year of funding at Pitt; the program launched last year with four inaugural medical technology awards. Twenty-five proposals were submitted for consideration during this round of funding.
“We are excited because these four technologies have already generated promising early animal test results; are being patent-protected; have significant clinical and commercial potential; and would benefit from a business focus and a financial “push” toward commercialization,” explained Pratap Khanwilkar, PhD, MBA, Professor of Bioengineering at the Swanson School and Coulter Program Director. “The Coulter Program at Pitt is pleased to provide funding to these research groups in order to transfer these potentially ground-breaking technologies from the work bench to the bedside.”
Pitt’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Swanson School of Engineering just received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps to develop a strategy for commercializing a nerve regeneration treatment. That team is led by Kacey Marra, who is laboratory director for plastic surgery research at Pitt.
A key player in getting that grant has been Pratap Khanwilkar, a bioengineering professor who came to the university last fall after years in the business world where he helped turn start-ups companies into successful commercial ventures. One of his specialties at Pitt is the development and commercialization of medical devices and bioengineering department.
“I can’t think of anyone who has become a more important member of the faculty,” said Harvey Borovetz, chairman of Pitt’s bioengineering department.
Mr. Khanwilkar represents a bridge between researchers, who historically have focused on getting published in prestigious academic journals, and an investment community that wants to see a business plan analyzing the potential market and how soon there will be a return on investment.
For the past twelve years while leading his company, MedQuest Products Inc. and acting as an officer of its successor WorldHeart Corp, Dr. Pratap Khanwilkar developed and maintained very productive research partnerships with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh. Those collegial experiences helped him decide to trade the mountains of the Wasatch Range for the river valleys of western Pennsylvania.
“We were not ‘unknown quantities’ – the Swanson School of Engineering and I,” Dr. Khanwilkar says with a laugh. “Pittsburgh is a great place with a distinctive combination of research in medicine and engineering, and they work extremely well together. I’ve seen what was successful in translational research at the University of Utah and through my experiences as a serial medical device entrepreneur, and felt that we in Pittsburgh could easily surpass that.”
Dr. Khanwilkar joins the Swanson School Department of Bioengineering, the University of Pittsburgh McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University’s Office of Technology Management, the former as a Professor and the latter as an Executive-In-Residence. But his role as Coulter Program Director will have the greatest impact.
The Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh has received a $3.54 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. Pitt is one of only five universities nationwide to receive the foundation’s Coulter
Translational Partnership II Award; the five-year grant to the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering will fund research that employs engineering techniques to develop improvements in health care, with the ultimate goal of accelerating the introduction of new technologies into patient care…
…Pratap Khanwilkar will serve as the Coulter Program Director and Visiting Professor in the Swanson School’s bioengineering department and as Executive-In-Residence at the University’s Office of Technology Management.
Khanwilkar, who has studied, taught, and conducted research at the University of Utah for 28 years, most recently as an adjunct professor in the department of bioengineering is the founder of six medical device product/service companies. In a uniquely fashioned, multifaceted position, Khanwilkar has been hired to guide the development of appropriate projects to be undertaken by Pitt researchers; ensure that they are properly vetted by a Coulter oversight committee; and facilitate the progress of securing additional funding, licensing intellectual property, and developing spin-off companies.